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By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
December 03, 2021
Category: Oral Health
DontWaittoHaveYourChildsMouthBreathingCheckedandTreated

It's normal for your child to breathe through their mouth if they're winded from play, or if they have a stuffy nose from an occasional cold. But what if they're doing it all the time, even at rest? That could be a problem for their overall health—and their oral health as well.

Although we can breathe through both the nose and the mouth, our bodies naturally prefer the former. The nasal passages filter out allergens and other harmful particles, as well as warm and humidify incoming air. Nose breathing also helps generate nitric oxide, a highly beneficial molecule to physical health.

We switch to mouth breathing when we're not receiving sufficient air through the nose. For chronic mouth breathers, something has obstructed or restricted the nasal passages like allergies or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Mouth breathing especially can affect a child's oral health because of the relationship between the tongue and jaw development. During nose breathing, the tongue rests against the roof of the mouth (palate), where it serves as a kind of mold around which the growing upper jaw can develop.

When breathing through the mouth, however, the tongue falls against the back of the bottom teeth. If this becomes chronic, the jaw may develop too narrowly, depriving the incoming teeth of enough room to erupt and leading to a poor bite.

If you notice things like your child's mouth falling open while at rest, snoring, irritability or problems with concentration (associated with poor sleep due to blocked nasal passages), then consider having a doctor examine them for a possible nasal obstruction. You should also check with your dentist to see if your child's jaw development has been affected. If caught early, there are interventional measures that could get it back on track.

Even after correction of a nasal obstruction, a child may still find it difficult to readapt to nose breathing because of a "muscle memory" for breathing through the mouth. In that case, they may need orofacial therapy to retrain their muscles for nose breathing.

It's important to stay aware of any signs of chronic mouth breathing with your child. Diagnosing and treating the condition early could help them avoid other problems later in life.

If you would like more information on the effects of mouth breathing on jaw development, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Trouble With Mouth Breathing.”

By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
November 24, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
5TipsForKeepingYourToothEnamelHealthy

You know what people say: "Protect your tooth enamel, and it will protect your teeth." Then again, maybe you've never heard anyone say that—but it's still true. Super strong enamel protects teeth from oral threats that have the potential to do them in.

Unfortunately, holding the title of "Hardest substance in the human body" doesn't make enamel indestructible. It's especially threatened by oral acid, which can soften its mineral content and lead to erosion.

That doesn't have to happen. Here are 5 things you can do to protect your enamel—and your teeth.

Don't brush too often. Brushing is essential for removing bacterial plaque, the main cause for dental disease. But more isn't always good—brushing too frequently can wear down enamel (and damage your gums, too). So, limit daily brushing to no more than twice a day.

Don't brush too soon. Oral acid normally peaks at mealtime, which can put your enamel into a softer than normal state. No worries, though, because saliva neutralizes acid within about an hour. But brushing before saliva finishes rebuffering could cause tiny bits of softened enamel to flake off—so, wait an hour after eating to brush.

Stop eating—right before turning in for the night, that is. Because saliva flow drops significantly during sleep, the decreased saliva may struggle to buffer acid from that late night snack. To avoid this situation, end your eating or snacking at least an hour before bedtime.

Increase your calcium. This essential mineral that helps us maintain strong bones and teeth can also help our enamel remineralize faster after acid contact. Be sure, then, to include calcium-rich foods and calcium-fortified beverages in your diet.

Limit acidic beverages. Many sodas, sports and energy drinks are high in acid, which can skew your mouth's normal pH. Go with low-acidic beverages like milk or water, or limit acidic drinks to mealtimes when saliva flows more freely. Also, consider using a straw while drinking acidic beverages to lessen their contact with teeth.

Remember, enamel isn't a renewable resource—once it's gone, it's gone. Take care of your enamel, then, so it will continue to take care of you!

If you would like more information on caring for your tooth enamel, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “6 Tips to Help Prevent the Erosion of Tooth Enamel.”

By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
November 19, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
TheresMoreWeCanDoAboutToothDecayBesidesDrillandFill

Until recently, the standard treatment for tooth decay remained essentially the same for nearly a century: Remove any decayed structure, then prepare and fill the cavity. But that singular protocol has begun to change recently.

Although "drilling and filling" saves teeth, it doesn't fully address the causes of decay. In response, dentists have broadened their approach to the disease—the focus now is on an individual patient's particular set of risk factors for decay and how to reduce those.

At the heart of this new approach is a better understanding of oral bacteria, the true cause of decay. Bacteria produce acid, which can erode tooth enamel and create a gateway into the tooth for decay to advance. We therefore want to lower those risk factors that may lead to bacterial growth and elevated acidity.

One of our major objectives in this newer approach is to reduce plaque, a thin film of food particles used by bacteria for food and habitation. Removing plaque, principally through better oral hygiene, in turn reduces decay-causing bacteria.

Plaque isn't the only mechanism for bacterial growth and acidity. Appliances like dentures or retainers accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned. Reduced saliva flow, often due to certain medications or smoking, limits this fluid's ability to buffer acid and acid reflux or acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks can disrupt the mouth's normal pH and increase the risk for enamel erosion.

Our aim, then, is to develop a long-term strategy based on the patient's individual set of oral disease risk factors. To determine those, we'll need to examine their medical history (including family), current health status and lifestyle habits. From there, we can create a specific plan targeting the identified risk factors for decay.

Some of the elements of such a strategy might include:

  • Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings;
  • Fluoride dental products or treatments to strengthen enamel;
  • Changes in diet and excess snacking, and ceasing from any tobacco use;
  • Cleaning and maintaining appliances, as well as monitoring past dental work.

Improving the mouth environment by limiting the presence of oral bacteria and acid can reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and the extent of treatment that might be needed. It's a more nuanced approach that can improve dental health.

If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention and treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How to Assess Your Risk.”

By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
November 13, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: fluoride  
ALittleFluorideGoesaLongWayinProtectingYourFamilysTeeth

A popular Sixties-era hair cream touted their product with the tagline, "A little dab'll do ya!" In other words, it didn't take much to make your hair look awesome.

Something similar could be said about fluoride. Tiny amounts of this "wonder" chemical in hygiene products and drinking water are widely credited with giving people a big boost in protection against tooth decay.

A Colorado dentist is credited with first noticing fluoride's beneficial effects early in the Twentieth Century. Although many of his patients' teeth had brownish staining (more about that in a moment), he also noticed they had a low incidence of cavities. He soon traced the effect to fluoride naturally occurring in their drinking water.

Fast forward to today, and fluoride is routinely added in trace amounts to dental care products and by water utilities to the drinking water supply. It's discovery and application have been heralded as one of the top public health successes of the Twentieth Century.

Fluoride, though, seems a little too amazing for some. Over its history of use in dental care, critics of fluoride have argued the chemical contributes to severe health problems like low IQ, cancer or birth defects.

But after several decades of study, the only documented health risk posed by fluoride is a condition called fluorosis, a form of staining that gives the teeth a brown, mottled appearance (remember our Colorado residents?). It's mainly a cosmetic problem, however, and poses no substantial threat to a person's oral or general health.

And, it's easily prevented. Since it's caused by too much fluoride in prolonged contact with the teeth, fluorosis can be avoided by limiting fluoride intake to the minimum necessary to be effective. Along these lines, the U.S. Public Health Service recently reduced its recommended amounts added to drinking water 0.7 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of water. Evidence indicated fluoride's effectiveness even at these lower amounts.

You may also want to talk with your dentist about how much fluoride your family is ingesting, including from hidden sources like certain foods, infant formula or bottled water. Even if you need to reduce your family's intake of fluoride, though, a little in your life can help keep your family's teeth in good health.

If you would like more information on the benefits of fluoride in dental care, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Fluoride & Fluoridation in Dentistry.”

By Little Harpeth Children's Dentistry
November 08, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral hygiene  
4TipsForImprovingYourOralHygieneTechnique

Although we've advanced leaps and bounds over the years treating dental disease, our strategy for preventing them hasn't changed much. That's because these prevention basics are quite effective—and as the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The core of an effective dental disease prevention strategy is mind-numbingly simple—brush and floss every day. These twin cleaning tasks remove accumulated dental plaque, a thin, bacterial film on tooth surfaces that's the primary oral disease driver.

True, there have been innovations concerning the "tools of the trade," i.e., toothbrushes, toothpastes and flossing devices. But what really makes this prevention strategy work is a consistent daily habit of oral hygiene.

In a way, simply "showing up" for daily oral hygiene goes a long way. But you can go even farther if you perform these tasks with greater proficiency—becoming a hygiene "ninja," of sorts.

Here, then, are 4 tips to improve your brushing and flossing prowess.

Be thorough when you brush. Try to cover all of your tooth surfaces when you brush, being sure to work the bristles into all the nooks and crannies and around the gum lines. A thorough brushing should take about 2 minutes.

Easy does it. Hard scrubbing may work on floors, but not your teeth—aggressive brushing can damage your enamel and gums. Brush gently and let the mild abrasives in your toothpaste do the heavy work of plaque removal.

Don't forget to floss. Although you may not like this "other hygiene task," flossing is necessary to remove plaque between teeth that your brush can't reach. Be sure, then, that you floss at least once a day.

Take the "tongue test." Wondering how well you're doing with your oral hygiene? A quick way to find out is by swiping your tongue across your teeth: If they feel gritty rather than smooth, you may have left some plaque behind.

Be sure to also ask your dentist for additional tips on better brushing and flossing. Improving your technique can help you put even more distance between you and dental disease.

If you would like more information on daily care for teeth and gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Daily Oral Hygiene.”





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